bowl of turmeric spice

Q. I can’t take aspirin or other over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen. They all make my stomach hurt!
I am having trouble with joint pain, though, and wonder what you can suggest. Tylenol works, but I hate to take too much.

A. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB), naproxen (Aleve) or aspirin as well as prescription pain relievers such as Celebrex, diclofenac and meloxicam can all irritate the digestive tract. They may also raise blood pressure or trigger irregular heart rhythms.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) does not bother the stomach, but with regular use it too can raise blood pressure and harm the liver, kidneys, ears or lungs.
The Guide to Alternatives for Arthritis that we are sending you provides information on medications such as salsalate that are less likely to irritate the stomach. It also includes many foods that can be helpful against inflammation.
Nondrug approaches such as turmeric, fish oil, tart cherries, pineapple or gin-soaked raisins may also offer relief without side effects. One reader offers this testimonial for a pill containing turmeric:

“The best pain remedy and inflammation fighter I have ever used is a curcurmin based remedy and it really works!
“The only person it didn’t work on is my brother so I encouraged him to take a digestive enzyme with it and he refused. I have had to take digestives for many years and figured he might need one too.
“For the doubters out there I will admit that it didn’t take my cancer pain away completely…but it did take the edge off so that it was tolerable. Not even morphine or Oxycodone did that for me. They didn’t work on me at all!”

Another reader, J.E., offered this experience with turmeric:

“Fifteen years ago I had a benign spinal cord tumor that was 90% removed through surgery. Subsequent radiation killed the remaining tumor. Over the years, as my spine has settled and curved due to the laminectomy, I have had increasing nerve pain that bands around my upper body. I took one turmeric last week after reading the Graedon’s newspaper column, and I was SHOCKED at the results. It was unbelievable how it completely took the sensitivity to touch that had plagued me away. Thank you so much for all your helpful and life changing information.”

Finally, here is this story from Julia R.:

“I am having GREAT results with Tumeric for arthritis, stiff joints, etc.  For several years I’ve been taking either Ibuprophen or Daypro.  After all of the recent discussion regarding the drug problems related to arthritis, I visited an herbalist and have for over a month been taking TUMERIC in a capsule form.  She buys a pharmaceutical grade of tumeric and has it put in a capsule.
“My medical history…. at age 64…. both knees replaced, 2 hand surgeries for carpal tunnel, two thumb joint replacements and bursitis in my right shoulder.  (Am I falling apart?)  NO…. not with lots of exercise and now Tumeric.  I have less pain & discomfort now with the Tumeric than I had with prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.
“I love your radio show… and just wanted you to be aware of this if you didn’t already know about it.  Would be very interested in your opinion.  Thanks so much for a great program and good, fair information.”
Sincerely,  Julia R.

To learn more about the various benefits (and some risks) associated with turmeric (and curry), we recommend The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. You will discover that people have used turmeric for back pain, gout, bursitis, arthritis, psoriasis and warts. There are some risks, though, and you will find that some people are susceptible to a rash or digestive upset. There is also a concern that it might increase the risk of bleeding when taken with the anticoagulant Coumadin (warfarin). So, even one of our favorite spices is not for everyone. You will also learn about our favorite anti-inflammatory foods such as blueberries, pomegranate, pineapple, grapes, cherries, ginger and garlic. They’re all in Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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  1. fbl

    mlb, it sounds like you guys are getting exposed to something either in your diet or via contact that is creating these problems.
    When my 14 year old nephew came to live with us he acted like an old man. He had headaches, canker sores, stomach pain, and a really bad knee. An Orthopedic Dr. told my brother that the knee problem was common in teenagers. If he hadn’t come here he would have been permanently incarcerated in a psychiatric facility. He went off his meds before he came out here.
    I controlled his diet carefully and home schooled him. I gave him a little nut cup of supplements with each meal. He never knew what he was taking. It only took me a little over a month to discover what he needed. All his problems went away. Yup, even the knee that supposedly nothing could be done for. He exercised by swimming in our pool and we got a used weight set for him to use. By the time he went back home almost a year later he had lost a LOT of weight, his mood was good (yes even for a teenager) and he was a healthy happy kid. He needed digestive enzymes with Betaine HCL and selenium and zinc. I also gave him a good multiple and B complex.
    We eat very few tinned or packaged foods so everything we eat was fresh. He had few carbohydrates and lots of fruits and veggies and organic meats.
    I would recommend that everyone in your family take the Food Safe test to see if food sensitivities are part of the problem. It can be ordered through your Dr’s office or through the Life Extension Foundation. One simply pricks the finger and drops blood on a mail-in card. Make sure you guys are eating a wide variety of foods before the test.
    For your young sports guy, have him checked out by a Pettibon Chiropractor. Misalignment can cause a LOT of problems. That is another thing my nephew needed. His neck was poker straight which impeded blood and nerve flow to the brain.

  2. Denise T

    If you’ve had any estrogen-related cancer, you probably want to avoid turmeric. I read at that turmeric is a phytoestrogen.

  3. mlb

    Will cooking (with) turmeric provide similar health benefits? Or capsules the best way?
    The whole family suffers from joint pain, (the old man and me, because we’re, well, old and need to loose some weight and the young ones (15 and 10) because they are active in sports and dance). The 15 year old dancer has had to curtail some of her dance classes because of some sort of “dead bone disease” in her big toe joint.
    The 10 year old all around sports guy has heel pain (which the podiatrist indicates is relatively common complaint for growing 10 years olds active in sports). What about pets? Or is this toxic to them. Both the cat and the dog seem to be arthritic too.
    Thought if I could add turmeric to our diet perhaps the whole family can benefit.

  4. Jane

    I’ve never heard you mention taking bioperine with turmeric for better absorption. Is this really necessary?
    People’s Pharmacy response: Black pepper, from which bioperine is derived, does improve absorption, as does including fat in the meal that has turmeric. We are guessing, though, that it is not “really necessary.”

  5. BJ

    About five months ago, l ran on treadmill too long and caused bursitis in both knees. I had the same thing happen years ago but didn’t last this long. My family doctor treated the pain with oral cortisone and Maloxicam of 15 m. Still I had pain and had to stop going to the gym. I’m a senior citizen and have never had pain in all my life, so I decided to go to a Specialist. The ex rays shows that I have arthritis now. He put a shot in each knee, told me to continue the Maloxicam. Said he could give me a shot every 3 months. I still have pain in my knees. What gives? Can you just develop arthritis all of a sudden? It sure has changed my life. Do you think water physical therapy would help?

  6. CR

    I recently bought Turmeric Root Extract, 95% Curcumiboids with hopes it will help with my arthritis pain and stiffness. Each capsule has 500mg of Turmeric Extract (Curcuma Longa 95%). The bottle says to take one capsule daily, but is seems many people take more than one capsule daily. Also, it seems that many people take this supplement with something else since turmeric and curcumin are poorly absorbed from the G.I. tract.
    It seems some people take it with piperine, a constituent of black pepper. My questions are: How many capsules should I take a day? How much piperine should I also take?
    Thank you,

  7. BK

    Are you sure your pain is totally a result of bursitis? My hips started to hurt several years ago even though I am in pretty good shape. I had an injury to my knee and had to go to physical therapy for this condition. In the course of PT I mentioned to the therapist about my hips probably are worn out and will need replacement. He indicated that it could just be that I haven’t stretched my muscles……..which I never did in life.
    He took me thru some very simple stretching exercises and lo and behold the pain completely vanished and hasn’t returned. So now I routinely do all kinds of stretching exercises every other day and it has done wonders for the aches and pains that I used to have in my joint areas. You should try the same.
    As for turmeric I also take these and in capsule form. I also get much relieve from joint stiffness by taking fish oil tablets………more so than I have observed by taking turmeric. Both can be found in any vitamin store but be sure you choose a reputable source so you are sure to get the best vitamins and the dosages you think you are getting.

  8. Shirley

    I suffer from bursitis in the hips frequently. I read about the use of turmeric to relieve the pain. My question is how do I use it? I read where capsules were taken Where can I buy them or is there another way to take turmeric?
    My doctor has given me cortozone injections several times over the last couple of years, but they don’t seem to be working as well as they once did.

  9. Anne

    Although I’m a big fan of turmeric and use a lot of it, my knee pain was helped hugely by giving up dietary gluten. After just a few weeks gluten-free, I could squat down and get up again without support, for the first time in years. It was a really nice surprise – also had some skin issues clear up, and a better energy level.
    I’m not fanatical about my diet but avoiding most gluten has been very beneficial. Even without genetic testing to discover if you’re predisposed to gluten sensitivity, it can’t hurt to try it and may help some people a lot.

  10. BobK

    Taking a daily fish oil tablet has gotten rid of the stiff joints in my hands. When I stop a few days go by and sure enough the joints get stiff again. Hyaluronic Acid (HA) also has done wonders for my painful knee joints. Pain is all gone as long as I take HA.

  11. fbl

    I use a curcurmin product that can be taken four times a day. Only one capsule is needed. It is called RE-LEV-IT. I make sure to take mine with a digestive enzyme to make sure I assimilate it.
    It does me more good that big time pain meds-not even morphine or oxycodone do as well for me. Actually the pain meds do nothing for me at all. The remedy doesn’t take the pain completely away for me but it makes it livable. For most people it does take the pain away completely.

  12. fbl

    Tumeric (curcurmin) is an incredible pain reliever. I have been through some incredible pain that the big time pain meds, yup, Morphine and Oxycodone, didn’t touch at all. My remedy, RE-LEV-IT, did in fact take the edge off my pain. No it didn’t take it away but nothing ever has for me. I have a weird body! Curcurmin is the active ingredient in this remedy.

  13. Kay

    How much of the Curcumin or Turmeric is recommended? Is it helpful for patients with neuropathy from bone marrow transplant (leukemia)?

  14. Gerlinde P-Y

    I have been reading about Turmeric for Stiff Joints, could you please tell me how much is a good dose to take a day?
    Does it has a interaction with other Medicines? I am also a Diabetic.
    Thank you

  15. RI

    Interesting to read about the spinal cord problems. 25 years ago, after sneezing and causing extreme pain & weakness to l. side of upper body, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease known as Syringomyelia. Had a laminectomy & shunt insert into cord. Hell on earth! 6 mos. later the syrinx (cyst) had refilled & I was in trouble again. Brainstem is affected &, a few yrs. later, I had brain surgery for the newest treatment for Syringo & Arnold-Chiari Malformation (part of original diagnosis).
    If people only knew what spinal cord surgery was like compared to the brain surgery I had, they would thank God each day for the spirit of life. Brain surgery was, in effect, nothing compared to having a shunt inserted into the cord itself.
    This past yr. saw me get suddenly worse. I have one doctor, my Neurologist, who seems to be the only person on earth (apart from my Neurosurgeon) who understands what I go through. I see people in far worse condition physically than I am when I visit his office. However, upon talking to them, while they look bad, the pain they undergo is something they can live with. Not saying that life is easy for any of us, but please don’t assume that you know what anyone is going through. No one really understands…not your family, health professionals, even others suffering with the same problems. We’re all different, I can’t stress that enough.
    Past mid-60’s now. Again…look great, but last summer marked the last of health that I had left. Due to too many med changes by my Internist at the time, I ended up a major medical mess and no one could deal with me. I’m terrified of having to change any doctors I may have (and the Internist is long gone), and absolutely won’t be going on any new meds. As a matter of fact, I’m now off approx. 5, although some have been replaced by others. So, life settles down… and then SHINGLES!! Again, no one notices, pays attention, etc. I’m too young and healthy looking for this one. My Neurologist recognized it, but by this time it had gone on to Post-Herpetic Neuralgia and other outbreaks. Oh, and the Internist never recognized this one and considered me a major complainer. Well, yes, there are times when pain can cause a teensy bit of distress.
    The point of all of this: I finally realized that if good health of any sort was to be mine, I was the one who had better do something about it. After spending days and nights on the Internet, I knew that turmeric was going to be my drug of choice. What amounts? A problem, yes, but then I thought about whole nations who had this in their food 3x/day. My drugs did nothing for me except cause more pain in the way of side-effects, etc. I will stand up and loudly praise turmeric for doing something that none of my drugs here helped in any manner. I thank my Neurologist for supporting me instead of thinking I was some kind of idiot.
    Just be sure to take this with some sort of oil….fish oil (a good quality one) preferably. I can’t and shouldn’t give amounts. For this I’m afraid you’re on your own, not because I’m mean but because I don’t know your medical problems, male/female, ht./wt., etc. I eat well, but due to intestinal damage from the disease and medicines, my clothes just hang off me. I buy a new size and, within mos., it’s the same problem. No, it’s not the big ‘C’, but it’s weight loss and pain in any event. But the pain from the cord…oh, heavens I thought that was something pretty special, but no, try that, Shingles & the ever enjoyable Post-Herpetic Neuralgia which leads to other neuralgias.
    I wish all of you well as you endeavor to find good health. One other thing: Fibromyalgia. I’ve had it since my first surgery. It is PAINFUL, it is not a figment of my imagination, it has probably been around for centuries under other names, sometimes life with all of these problems is incredibly hard to actually stay in. Far, far easier to make an exit (but I won’t!)….but we do NOT put these problems on. What I wouldn’t give to once again wear suits, go to an office, have friends, go out for lunches, etc., instead of having people think that I make all of these problems up. I haven’t received one dime in compensation…it’s a demeaning process now but 25 yrs. ago it was much worse. How do I know? I actually help people who are caught up in this mess. I took care of my body, I have never wished harm on anyone (so I don’t deserve this, as so many think), yes, I have many, many, many good things in my life. I’m forever grateful for them, but I also have great difficulties. I will hold my head as high as possible. I’m a human being, but am often treated as much less. I can’t even imagine what those who can’t respond for themselves go through, but I can only take on so much.
    Thanks People’s Pharmacy…you do a great service. To the rest of you…if pain, especially nerve pain, is your problem, then please try turmeric. Eat healthful food and be kind to yourself. RI
    P.S. Just wanted to add that there are good doctors out there…unfortunately too many others make the good ones look bad. I don’t even give my complete med. history any longer…no one would be able to take me on as a patient if they knew the whole story. This all started when I was 5 yrs. old, so you can imagine. Thank-you to all of the good doctors. You’re appreciated. The bad ones: You should really and truly be ashamed of yourselves.

  16. Nancipo

    My background: an active 84 year old woman who has been taking a 6oz. glass of grape juice and Certo daily for many years. I have “recovered” from Lyme Disease twice – in 1997 and in 2006. In the past year I have had two, very minor arthritis-like episodes – something I’d never had before. Six weeks ago I was hit with a more severe episode of arthritis (my Doctor labels it “infectious arthritis”). It started like the other episodes but became much more painful and crippling. So far he’s tried:
    1) Doxycycline (100mg.for 3 weeks)which helped a litle but he didn’t renew.
    2) nsaids and tylenol – they control the pain only a little
    3) Mobic (7.5 mg, not more than 15mg/day) – controls pain only a little
    With my doctor’s approval I take fish oil multi-vites, Vit.D, Vit. C, and calcium.
    I have added herbals: Zylflamend (whole body), boswellia (2 capsules 2x/day), bromelain (1 pill 1x/day), & garlic (Allemed – 1 capsule 1x/day).
    What more/less can I do? Am I taking too many different things? Any suggestions?
    Thanks for helping.

  17. MR

    I’ve gotten a lot of pain relief from taking white willow bark capsules. Of course, that’s where aspirin originally came from, but taking the bark does not cause aspirin’s side effects. I read that the willow bark remedy takes a little longer to take effect, but lasts longer. Taking it with breakfast and supper gives me nice, continuous pain relief.

  18. Karen

    It’s curcumin that’s the active ingredient in turmeric, so you might do a bit better to shop for the highest amount of curcumin you can find in a supplement. Then again, I know people who buy one of the two in bulk, and make their own capsules. Helps me.
    On the NSAID side, you might also try the topicals. Aspercreme and Voltaren (diclofenac) work well for some people and sidestep the gastro problems. That said, it’s still possible to overdose when using a topical, so follow package / prescription directions.

  19. DH

    Re: Soothing Joint Pain Without Strong Drugs. You mentioned a “Curcumin-based” remedy. If Curcumin is the base, what other ingredients are mixed with it to make up the formula? Is the remedy available in it’s entirety as one product (capsule) OTC? And, are any of the ingredients contra indicated with any Rx meds? If not, I’d like to try it! Thanks in advance for your reply.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: UNfortunately, the reader did not give us a product name. There are several on the market available OTC.

  20. Kathy B

    I started taking turmeric capsules for my osteoarthritis pain about 3 months ago. I have much less pain with no side effects. This has worked much better for me than gin soaked raisins.

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